The University of Toronto Mississauga is making students pay for services that are closed.

 Marty Nov

Marty is a first year environmental management student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Aside from the environment, Marty is interested in how power is distributed amongst different social systems and true democracy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of facilities at the ‘University of Toronto Mississauga’ have been closed. However, UTM students are still required to pay mandatory fees, called incidental fees, for these closed facilities as well as still having to pay for high course fees. Here is the breakdown of these incidental fees and the course fees for the University of Toronto Mississauga.

University of Toronto Mississauga

RAWC Fee

The first mandatory fee is the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’ which comprises a payment of 154.41$ for the first semester and 205.88$ for the second semester. The athletics fee includes a gym membership to the Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC) which gives students access to the RAWC’s facilities such as a 25-meter pool, a sauna, a 200-meter indoor running track, outdoor tennis courts, a full-sized indoor basketball court, a weightlifting center, and a gym which includes state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RAWC was closed on the 13th of October 2020, a little over a month after the classes of the first semester started, which was the 9th of September 2020. Even though the RAWC was closed for the majority of the first semester and will most likely remain closed for the second semester, UTM students are still required to pay the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’ for both semesters. When the registrar was contacted regarding this issue, the response was that they will not be offering refunds for the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’.

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Although the UTM wouldn’t be offering refunds, the registrar did say that they have reduced this fee by 25% from last year and that the university is offering live-at-home fitness activities and an Instagram page with athletic challenges. By reducing the fee by 25%, seeing as how the RAWC was closed, this means that 25% of the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’ in a regular year would be going towards the RAWC and 75% would be going towards these online alternatives. The 25% discount does not reflect the reduction in value that UTM students now receive from the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’.

If you had a gym membership that had an optional discount of 25% but all you got were Instagram posts and live-at-home training, you probably would never take that discount. However, for UTM students, this discount is not only nonrepresentative of the new value of the ‘UTM Athletics Fee’, but is a forced payment and not an offer.

UPass Fee

The second mandatory fee that UTM students can not use is the ‘UTMSU Miss. U-Pass’. This fee gives students a U-Pass, a MiWay pass that allows UTM students to use the MiWay transit for the duration of the school year and is provided by the ‘University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union’ or ‘UTMSU’. The cost for this mandatory fee is 131.39$ for the first semester and 131.39$ for the second semester.

While the U-Pass is significantly cheaper than the 135$ monthly pass that MiWay provides (seeing as how a semester lasts 3 months), UTM stopped offering in-person classes in mid-October. Even when classes were being provided in-person, the majority of classes were online and since mid-October, all classes have been put online. If the reasoning for having a discounted bus pass was for students to have a cheap transport option to their in-person classes, then once classes were put online, there should have been a refund for the ‘UTMSU Miss. U-Pass’ fee. However, this did not happen.

Seeing as how the ‘UTMSU’ is in charge of this fee and not the university, we contacted the UTMSU to ask why there wasn’t a refund for this now useless U-Pass. They responded by saying that they have been able to send U-Passes to students by mail, no longer requiring students to physically pick up their U-Pass at the UTM Campus and that they are working with the City of Mississauga on getting refunds which might occur in early March. Still, not only are UTM students forced to pay for an unfairly discounted athletics fee, but we are also paying for a university bus pass to a campus that is closed.

This fee is also exclusive to UTM students seeing as how St. George and Scarborough campuses do not have such a fee. It is also interesting how last year, the UPass had an opt-out option. However, for this year, the only year where every UTM student can’t use the UPass, the UPass is mandatory.

Student Services Fee

The third mandatory fee is called the “UTM Student Services” fee. This fee is 131.12$ for the first semester and 201.25$ for the second semester. This fee entails services that come from different UTM facilities such as the Centre for Student Engagement (CSE), Career Center, International Education Center (IEC), Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC). Even though the “UTM Student Services” fee was reduced by 35%, the services that are currently provided from this fee still do not match the current value.

The CSE is a hub that has all the connections that students would need including connections to clubs, connections to different organizations at the school and connections to volunteer opportunities. This seems to be a very good initiative however because it is online, a lot of the opportunities that the CSE provides are more limited.

Toronto Students. Photo: Shubham Sharan

The IEC is a center that helps international students get used to the UTM campus and helps domestic students with the international exchange program. However, seeing as how there are very few international students currently on campus at the UTM and how the international exchange program has been cancelled for this year due to the pandemic, students should have the ability to opt-out of this portion of the “UTM Student Services” fee.

Finally, the “UTM Student Services” fee also pays for the RAWC. As previously mentioned, the RAWC building is currently closed and the only recreation services that are provided are live virtual fitness classes as well as Instagram posts. The “UTM Student Services” fee in a normal year seems to be very helpful for students but seeing as how the pandemic has limited the accessibility of the services provided by this fee, students should be able to opt-out and receive a refund for this currently useless fee.

E-transcript Fee

The fourth fee is not mandatory but is a ridiculous fee nevertheless. Before the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of UTM facilities, the ‘Transcript Center’ at the University of Toronto St. George campus would provide, upon demand, physical transcripts to students from all UofT campuses for a 15$ fee. With the closure of the ‘Transcript Centre’, they are no longer providing physical transcripts but are providing digital e-transcripts to students. Even though the transcript is now in a digital format, students still have to pay the 15$ fee as if it were a physical copy which is absurd.

Financial Issues for Students

By combining these three senseless yet mandatory fees from both semesters, they add up to almost 1000$. This is an absurdly high amount of money, especially when you take into account the fact that the course fees at the UTM have remained at 610$ per course, the same price as was in years prior. This is appalling seeing as how a study by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations showed that 62% of students and 76% of faculty members believe that online learning has been detrimental to the education quality provided at Ontario universities.

The main reason for this belief is that the loss of human connection has made learning and studying a lot more difficult. From personal experience, learning with a professor in front of you in real life and studying alongside other people your age really does make the retention of information a lot easier. Even though we have had a significant decrease in the quality of education, we are still having to pay the same amount as we would for higher quality education.

Employment Problems

An issue that compounds with these unreasonably wasteful mandatory fees and high course fees are that students are having a harder time finding a source of income. A study by Statistics Canada shows that youth between 15-25 have had an increase in unemployment of about 10%, which is significantly higher than all other age groups. With finances being a notable concern for university students, having unfairly high course fees and almost scam-like mandatory fees is quite unethical especially when it comes from one of the top 20 universities in the world.

Our Demands

We as students of the University of Toronto Mississauga have two demands; an ability for students to opt-out and receive refunds for the mandatory fees listed above, and for course fees to be reduced by 20%. We have tried all that we can as students to have our demands realized; we have spoken to the university administrative staff, we have written articles to the university newspaper, and we have gathered over 10,000 petition signatures across campuses regarding this issue. Unfortunately, our opinions are being actively dismissed seeing as how the university has not budged on its decision to change course fees and to allow refunds for these mandatory fees.

We have tried to force change from the inside but this has not been successful. With the university caring more about its reputation and money rather than its students, we are writing this article as a demand for help from external media and external voices to showcase this issue with the hope that the university now has an actual reason to listen to their students.

On the behalf of all UTM students,
Thank you very much

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